Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Barely Human(itarians): Food Not Bombs

It may seem counter-intuitive to criticize a charitable organization, particularly one aimed at feeding the city's many homeless. But that's what makes Food Not Bombs and its informal President so reprehensible. Food Not Bombs doesn't feed the homeless, but rather exploits the homeless in an effort to make loosely related political statements.

Recently the organization has been asked to discontinue its feedings in front of the Family Court Building and 20th and Vine, an action FNB immediately used to slander the city, claiming prioritizing tourism was a soulless act. 

The decision had nothing to do with tourism. The truth of the matter is the city has no way of insuring that the feedings are safe because FNB refuses to get a permit, which they proudly profess on their website:

We refuse to get a permit for our servings; we believe nobody needs permission to share food with those in need.

If you're sitting in your dorm smoking pot, this premise might sound nice enough, but this permit is required for any large gatherings in a public park from protests to family reunions.

The group's motives don't sound quite as idealistic when you consider they admittedly parade the homeless in an effort to protest issues entirely unrelated to hunger, including funding for the police department. 

Most recently the group, along with Occupy Philadelphia, protested the opening of the Barnes Museum. Only they weren't protesting the same drama the museum is accustomed to, they were protesting the gala itself. 

Somehow philanthropy is now sinful. As those who helped bring one of the world's most astonishing museums to the Parkway dined (with the proper permits from the city), the FNB and Occupy Philadelphia illegally fed a line of homeless across the street in an attempt to gross everyone out.

Again, there isn't anything inherently wrong with feeding the homeless, if you are genuinely dedicated to helping the homeless. But 20th and Vine is only equipped to exploit the homeless and there is nothing humane about that. 

There are no public facilities, it is no where near a shelter, and FNB is affiliated with no organizations that attempt to rehabilitate the homeless. FNB feeds them, makes what they perceive to be a point, and then releases them to sleep along the Vine Street Expressway, Sister Cities Park, or the steps of the library. 

FNB is a Homeless Advocacy Group in every sense of the phrase, literally advocating for homelessness. 

Should we just be a city of satiated homeless? Should we snub grant money and donations earmarked for museums and fountains because one group thinks it's better to spent elsewhere? Remember when volunteering or donating to a charitable organization was a good thing? Remember when it was politically correct to be happy? 

We can't help everybody, and we certainly can't help them by dwelling on the fact that the most obvious improvements are going to be those that make the biggest tax payers happy to live here.  

Protesting a fundraiser that helped bring priceless art into the eyes of millions of Philadelphians who would never otherwise see such a space, that is a soulless act. Using the homeless - living people - to make that point, that is barely human. 

There are hundreds of charitable volunteer organizations in the city dedicated to helping the homeless, most of which not only feed them, but offer them the tools to feed themselves. FNB is associated with none of these.


  1. I have to disagree with you; they may not be as effective as you would hope for, and it's possible they may even be doing more harm than good in SOME cases. But my only interaction with the group came in a setting with absolutely no publicity either given or sought where they simply met weekly and cooked simple barbecue style food that anyone who wanted to could have for free. That's a good thing.

  2. Judge a group in the totality of its actions. I agree with the original posted assessment of this group. They too often use people for their own agenda. And even once is too often.